5 Mistakes I Continue To Make in My Marriage
Bestselling author; blogger www.happiness-project.com
One theme of my happier-at-home project is marriage.
I have five particular problem areas in my marriage. Here they are, along with the strategies I try to use to address them, though they remain challenging:
1. Demanding gold stars. I'm a gold-star junkie, and my husband just isn't very good at handing out gold stars--and that makes me feel angry and unappreciated.
In response, I now think more about doing things for myself. I used to tell myself I was doing nice things for him – "He'll be so happy to see that I put all the books away," "He'll be so pleased that I fixed the schedule" etc. – then I'd be mad when he wasn't appreciative. Now I tell myself that I'm doing these things for me. "I'm so organized to have bought all the supplies in advance!" Because I do things for myself, I don't expect him to respond in any particular way.
2. Using a snappish tone. I have a very short fuse – but my husband doesn't like it when I snap at him. He's funny that way. Many of my resolutions help me keep my temper in check. I don't let myself get too hungry or too cold (I fall into these states very easily); I try to maintain reasonable order, because clutter makes me crabby; I try to control my voice to keep it light and cheery instead of accusatory and impatient; I try not to make my (supposedly terrifying) mean face. Confession: I've worked on this issue relentlessly for years, and I fly into brief-but-hot rage at least once a week. At least.
3. Not showing enough consideration. Studies show that married people treat each other with less civility than they show to other people — definitely true for me. I'm working hard on basic consideration, such as not reading my emails while talking to him on the phone. Very basic, I know.
4. Score-keeping. I'm a score-keeper, always calculating who has done what. "I cleaned up the kitchen, so you have to run to the store" — that sort of thing. I've found two ways to try to deal with this tendency.
First, I remind myself of unconscious over-claiming; i.e., we unconsciously overestimate our contributions relative to other people's. This makes sense, because of course we're far more aware of what we do than what other people do. I complain about the time I spend paying bills, but I overlook the time my husband spends dealing with our car.
Second, I remind myself of the words of my spiritual master, St. Therese of Lisieux: "When one loves, one does not calculate."
5. Taking my husband for granted. Just as I find it easy to overlook chores done by my husband (see #4), it's easy to forget to appreciate his many virtues and instead focus on his flaws. For example, although I find it hard to resist using an irritable tone, my husband almost never speaks harshly, and that's really a wonderful trait. I try to stay alert to all the things I love about him, and let go of my petty annoyances.
What are some mistakes you make in your marriage or long-term relationship? Have you found any useful strategies for addressing them?
Edited by: Lawyer Asad